When I Can’t Hear

I said yes to Jesus when I was twelve, and for the next fifty years stumbled along the Christian path. The first three decades during my morning devotions I first praised God, then asked help for my needs, and closed with thanks. The last two decades, devotions absent, I groaned my way through the day: “Why won’t You answer me?”

God is omnipotent (all-able) and omniscient (all-knowing). His job is Eternal Father, strong to save, as the Navy hymn declares. Jesus reaches down and the Holy Spirit whispers, “I’m here.” I usually don’t see how He helps until after I’ve gone through it.

My job is to listen and cling to the rock with my fingertips, if necessary, as the storm lashes me over and over; to listen harder when I pray, “Lord, bless me, even when I won’t give up the one thing I must.”

I didn’t discover Barbara Brown Taylor until last month, although she wrote An Altar in the World in 2009. I’m only nine years late. But not really. The Lord meets us right on time. For me, last month. For my friend, yesterday, when she said through her tears, “Why can’t I hear Him?”

I told her what Barbara said about how faith looks sometimes. It is a “blunt refusal to stop speaking into the divine silence.” We trust even when we can’t hear, and not hearing is not an accident. This is when we walk through something necessary, a lesson to learn.

Taylor also wrote in Leaving Church: “When everything you count on for protection has failed, the Divine Presence does not fail. The hands are still there – not promising to rescue, not promising to intervene – promising only to hold you no matter how far you fall.”

And so He holds us when He’s silent. And in our groanings, we pray the same as Lucy when she whispered, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” (C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

Hoosier Hospitality

I don’t know what day it is. It’s been nine months since I retired, and a rhythm has developed to my weeks. Sunday morning still has me in church for an hour of fellowship; Tuesday noon I attend an Al-Anon meeting learning to detach and yet still care; and Friday noon my writers’ group meets to discuss one of our current stories. But this pesky polar vortex has descended on us again with below-zero wind chills, and I haven’t been anywhere this week. All my days have run together. The geese didn’t return on the first day of March (see Frank and Opal), and no wonder. The pond is frozen over again and it’s too cold to be outside for anyone except fur-hooded folks who like igloos.

In-between arctic plunges, I chatted with Billy, who had repaired my ninety-year-old mom’s car. I was hoping he couldn’t fix the u-joint, whatever that is, but he did (see Jerky and Pears). He used to run his own repair garage, but like many of us, has slowed down. Now he works on an occasional car in his driveway. Too bad many of my readers will never get the benefit of his expertise. By the way, my mom says she wants to drive again if spring ever comes, but that’s another story.

Billy told me about what had recently happened to him. Apparently K.S. isn’t the only one who loses $50 bills (see The Red Truck). He had stopped in at the local bar for a late afternoon pick-me-up, and then headed to the grocery store. When he reached into his pocket to pay for cigarettes and coffee, his fist came up empty.

“I knew which pocket my fifty-dollar bill was in, but it warn’t there,” he told me.

He left his items with the cashier and re-traced his steps to the tavern. “I asked the bartender if anyone had turned in a $50 bill, knowing the chance was slim to none.”

A stranger at one of the tables overheard his question and piped up, “Which table were you sitting at?”

Billy turned around to speak to him and pointed at the table.

“Which chair were you sitting in?” the man asked.

Billy walked over and pointed again.

“Which side of the chair did your fifty-dollar bill fall on?”

Billy said, “The left side. Had it in my left pant’s pocket.”

The stranger reached in his shirt pocket, pulled out a $50 bill and said, “This must be yours, then.”

That’s life in small-town America, filled with kind strangers and honest car mechanics. Hoosier hospitality is real, and still deals out fairness and generosity, both of which are in short supply in our country’s leadership. But that’s altogether another story.

Recipe – Miss Ellie’s Cornbread

Miss Ellie and I discussed this recipe as I ended my last visit. (See Two Good Women and Contentment)

“For good cornbread, the trick is to get hold of quality cornmeal,” I said.

She looked at me and smiled. “Follow me.”

We headed toward the covered porch where she pieces and sews quilts. As she reached to open the top of the freezer, I asked, “Did you find somewhere to buy in bulk?”

Miss Ellie pulled out a zip-loc bag and handed it to me. “We grind our own corn.” Oh my.

I thanked her profusely and drove straight home. Sam already had cajun red beans simmering on the stove, and made the cornbread within the hour.

Miss Ellie’s Cornbread
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour
3/4 t. soda
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
2 T. brown sugar (makes a crustier edge than white sugar)
Combine thoroughly. Make a well in center of mix.
Add 2 eggs. Beat slightly.
Add 1 c. sour milk (I pour 1 T. cider vinegar in cup, then fill with milk and let set a few minutes.) Beat well.

Melt 1/4 c. lard in 8” iron skillet (or melt shortening) and pour into mix. Beat well.

Pour mix back into the hot, well-greased skillet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until well-browned and crusty around the edge.